American Women Composers-Midwest

When it started in 1982 American Women Composers-Midwest had the modest ambition of cheering on performances of compositions by women past and present. Now it’s one of the city’s busiest and most daring presenters. To kick off its 15th anniversary, the group has enlisted members of the Chicago Chamber Musicians–a rather conservative bunch of ace instrumentalists normally indifferent to contemporary works–for a retrospective that includes exemplary works from four of the AWC’s officers, each with a distinctive sensibility. Lita Grier, once a precocious student at Juilliard, recently dusted off her 1964 Sonnets for Orpheus (for soprano, horn, piano, and cello), a ravishing Bergian setting for poems by Rilke that won her a coveted prize at UCLA. Janice Misurell-Mitchell, who’s also a flutist and performance artist, likes to mix Brechtian political theatrics with heavy doses of jazz and rap–as she does with verve and conviction in her Uncommon Time (for flute and drum). Kathleen Ginther, who’s doggedly climbing the academic ladder, uses text by establishment poet Wallace Stevens in her On the Palmy Beach (soprano accompanied by horn and piano), a finale from a larger work. The calm acceptance of grief and sea images are haunting, and Ginther’s unusual blending of horn wails and anguished vocals does them justice. Other composers on the bill include B. Charmian Tashjian, trailblazer Amy Beach, and Irene Britton Smith, who retired from teaching in Chicago’s elementary schools to pursue music. Among the performers are soprano Patrice Michaels Bedi, horn virtuoso Gail Williams, and pianist Deborah Sobol. Sunday, 2 PM, Buntrock Hall, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan; 312-444-9901 or 312-294-3000. TED SHEN